Life and Literature in the Roman Republic

Life and Literature in the Roman Republic

Life and Literature in the Roman Republic

Life and Literature in the Roman Republic

Excerpt

The story of intellectual pioneering, visualized with difficulty, has not the thrill of a Marco Polo diary, but to the intelligent it has a deeper fascination. Our records are, however, very brief, spanning a few thousand out of many hundred thousand years. What we can review is a small fraction of the whole story. If the human race is more than 300,000 years old, man's artistic literature is less than 3000: our segment of sure knowledge is less than one per cent of the amazing tale. If the biologist is willing to pry into the strata of a hundred million years to trace the evolution of plant and animal life, it is hardly conceivable that the humanist should disregard any part of our pitifully meager record of spiritual endeavor. This is my excuse for inviting attention to the first efforts of the Romans to express themselves in literary form.

In attempting to tell a part of this story I have chosen to notice especially how the writers of the period responded to their environment, because this aspect of the theme has been somewhat neglected in recent studies of Roman literature. This is of course not a novel method of approach. Taine, for instance, drove the hobby of environmental determinism at a gallop that ought to satisfy the most optimistic behaviorist, and his immediate followers . . .

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